Weeshie's Week

Hall of Fame Award for Jerry Kiernan

April 3rd, 2012
by Weeshie Fogarty

It was for me one of those unforgettable, memorable and wonderful Kerry sporting occasions. As an invited guest to the Kerry AAI awards on March 24th held in the River Island Hotel Castleisland i found myself in the company of many of our county's greatest athletic sportsmen and women, young and old. A host of awards were presented and I was afforded the great honour of presenting the Hall of fame Award to one of this county's greatest ever sportsmen and a hero to me, Olympian Jerry Kiernan. The huge crowd rose to their feet to give this unassuming, courteous and pleasant North Kerry man a standing ovation. It was a long overdue accolade for this remarkable Kerryman whose achievements in my opinion have never been fully acknowledged within his own county. Well done to the Ricoh Athletic Club for hosting the event and those who organised this glittering occasion. Sheena Brosnan was responsible for a superb commenerative booklet of the occasion. Gneeveguille's Paddy o Donoghue and Kerry AAI chairman Martin Fitzgerald were also deeply involved and in his role as MC Denny McSweeney one of the great athletic warriors in this county assured that everything ran like clock work. The whole night was a credit to one and all.

Jerry Kiernan was born in the little village of Brosna in north Kerry, where his father was a member of An Garda Síochána. A very promising footballer in his youth, he won a Kerry Minor County Championship medal with Feale Rangers and also played for St Michael's College, Listowel. However, his great love for athletics was born as he watched the best runners in the world compete in the Tokyo Olympics of 1964. He was simply, as he says himself, 'born to run'. He won his first medal in Duagh when he finished second at a local sports meeting. Little did he realise that this was the beginning of what was to be one of the greatest running careers of any Kerryman to date. In fact Jerry's ninth place finish in the Los Angeles Olympic Marathon is the second highest placing ever achieved by an Irishman. That same year John Tracy won the silver in the very same race.

As a youth Jerry won all the major under-age titles, Kerry, Munster and All-Ireland; his career was blossoming. He left Kerry at eighteen years of age to begin a teaching career in Dublin and joined the famous Clonliff Harriers Athletic Club, with whom he won a host of All-Ireland championships. His ability at a range of distances was astonishing. He was fractionally outside the world record for the ten miles, running this in 46.5 minutes. Jerry ran in four Dublin City Marathons, winning twice and setting the record time in 1982. Then, in a classic mile race in June 1976, the Kerryman became the very first from the county and only the seventh Irishman to run under four minutes for the distance. Rod Dixon was the winner.

The Kerryman competed all over the world despite his commitment to his teaching career. Half-marathons, full marathons, 10km, the mile or 3,000 m (he held the then Irish record for this distance), Jerry took them all in his stride. He excelled at cross-country running and won All-Irelands at Under-18, Under-20 and senior level in 1984. He was a regular on the Irish team, winning close to sixty green singlets: a magnificent achievement for this Kerryman. When the book of Kerry's greatest athletes is finally written, Jerry Kiernan will be right there at the very top.

In the Los Angeles Olympic Marathon of 1984 he proved beyond a doubt that he was equal to the worlds very best. Finishing ninth, despite cramping a lot towards the finish, was an astonishing achievement when you consider that this was one of the greatest fields of marathon runners ever assembled: Carlos Lopez of Portugal won the gold in a new Olympic record time, John Treacy was second for Ireland, and Charlie Spedding of England was third. Other legendary names in the field of 105 athletes running shoulder to shoulder with the Brosna man that blistering hot day in Los Angeles included: Alberto Salazar (USA), Takeshi So (Japan), Rob de Castella (Australia), Joseph Nzau (Kenya) and the legendary Toshihiko Seko (Japan).  We can only speculate what further greatness Jerry Kiernan would have achieved if he had gone to America and become a full-time athlete.

The crowds i am convinced will flock to Austin Stack Park, Tralee next Wednesday (7-30 pm) for what promised to be a cracking Kerry/Cork Munster Under 21 Football final. Both teams had very comprehensive wins in their semi-finals, however as Cork will field seven of last years Munster winning side they will in my opinion begin as firm favourites. Anyone who was in attendance in Pairc Ui Riann last year will never forget the hammering the home side handed out to the Kingdom in the final. It was exhibition stuff from the John Cleary trained rebels.

Waterford were absolutely dire against Kerry last Wednesday In Tralee and the final score, 4-26 to 1-4 speaks for itself. Thankfully the lads eased off in the second half and it appeared as if they had been instructed to take their points and not humiliate their opponents completely. It was the sporting and proper thing to do. Now and i repeat, Waterford were wretched, as poor as i have seen at this level, however let's give credit where credit is due. This was a devastating display of pure, refreshing, traditional, exhilarating Kerry football at its very best. The very minimum of the cursed hand pass and the old football philosophy of long accurate kicking into the open spaces to team mates fully expecting this tactic was a joy to behold. Then we saw the forwards having a go for a point at every available opportunity, no such thing as passing the buck to another. Have a go, no disgrace in kicking wide.   The management team headed by Eamon Fitzmaurice must be hugely complimented on their efforts.

Now the biggest test of all waits. The game in which they will be judged by the ever demanding Kerry public. The Kerry management have done their work and in the two games played, against Tipperary and Waterford they have got the very best out of every single one of their young men. What more could they have done?  I have been hugely impressed by Kieran Hurley, Connor Cox, Stephen o Brien, James Walsh, Jack Sherwood and substitutes, Eanna o Connor and Gavin o Grady. Are they good enough to reclaim the trophy, the Corn na Cásca, presented by the Munster Council in 1966 to commemorate the jubilee of the 1916 Rising? It's a huge ask. Home venue will help; a vocal Kerry crowd will spur the boys on. One thing i am convinced of, if defeat is their lot they will bow the knee to a better side. It's another mouth watering encounter and can hopefully we will have a referee who uses the most important rule of all, common sense, let the play flow and not flash yellow cards to young men who are learning their trade. I have seen eight yellow cards flashed in the two Kerry under 21 games recently and in my opinion just one was warranted. We live in hope.

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